Published in The Indianapolis Star, May 6, 2014
Thanks to that wild voice, expressive face and often-exposed belly, Tracy Morgan has been one of the most recognizable people on television for nearly 20 years. The Brooklyn-born comic developed his absurd comedy on the stand-up circuit in the ’90s and brought his weirdo genius to “Saturday Night Live” with such classic characters as Brian Fellows (Safari Planet) and Dominican Lou. On “30 Rock,” he played an even more outrageous version of himself: Tracy Jordan, the diabetic, hard-partying celebrity with equal love for strippers and his wife.
Now, with “Bona Fide,” which aired April 20 on Comedy Central, and a national stand-up tour, Morgan is back to basics and better than ever. We spoke to him about his diabetes, his baby daughter, his future and, um, his favorite smell.
Question: So “Bona Fide” has aired. Did anybody’s reaction make you feel especially great? Answer: Yeah, man, everybody. A lot of people watched the special and called to congratulate me, to embrace me, and it really made me feel good. My daughter started really laughing when the special was on, when she heard my voice. It really touched me that my daughter — and she’s only 9 months old — had so much fun watching daddy.
Q: You raised three boys before you had your daughter. Is raising a daughter totally different? A: I’m with her mother, too, so it’s not just me alone. You have to be more conscious of girls. My boys are much older than her. And when I was raising my sons, we didn’t have money. I was limited. I had to be on the road to keep the lights on. But raising my daughter, I’m hands-on. I’m here with her much more.
Q: What can you tell me about the upcoming FX show you’re working on with the “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” guys? Is it a sure thing? A: Absolutely, but I don’t wanna talk about it. It’s still in contract mode. I don’t want to brag about it; I’m pretty superstitious. But those guys are funny — they get it. And FX is a network that lets you live a little bit, breathe a little bit. That’s what I love. I can be me.
Q: You made headlines when you told the world you were diabetic. What is the most difficult part of managing diabetes? A: Diet is the most challenging part. But I’m an older man now; I don’t eat much junk food. I keep the saturated sugars out of my diet, take my insulin on time, stay fit in the gym. You get older and you don’t feel so invincible. You wanna be here a little bit longer, so you gotta follow the rules.
Q: Are there things you wish someone had told you years ago that could have prevented the disease? A: Everything happens for a reason. My diabetes keeps me in check, so I don’t see it as a death mark. It keeps me from going off the deep end. I have to embrace it.
Q: You spent well over a decade doing TV shows. Are you happy that your main focus is again stand-up? A: I give 150 percent to everything that I do. But … I’m glad I get to use my own voice again to tell my perspective. … Knowing who you are and where you come from, that’s what comedy is.
Q: A few favorites before we end: What’s your favorite smell? A: I don’t want to tell you my real favorite smell. That wouldn’t be appropriate. Let’s just say flowers. No, let’s say peaches.
Q: And your favorite snack? A: Yeah, let’s just say peaches. Photo: By Robin Tworney